Mental illness has been long subjected to stigmatization in our society. In the rural areas, it is not uncommon for people to associate mental illness with demonic possession and the like. While still being a hushed-up topic in urban areas, more and more people are being open about it. Then there is another interesting trend developing: the tendency to romanticize mental illness. Swinging between these extremes, our society clearly needs to take a balanced approach to this issue.
About a year back, Bollywood’s reigning queen Deepika Padukone candidly spoke about having been suffering from anxiety and depression. The news made waves as it established the actor as bold in real life as her portrayed characters on screen. Consequently, the revelation also inspired many other celebrities to break the silence on such taboo subjects.
According to psychiatrists, roughly 10% of India’s population suffers from minor mental conditions like depression and more than 50 million people suffer from some form of mental illness. Despite its prevalence, why does it take the likes of Deepika Padukone and more recently Ileana D’cruz for us to accept mental illness as something common like other physical ailments?
We live in a fast-paced world of cut-throat competition in all fields resulting in higher instances of stress among men and women. But how many of us are ready to seek professional help when such a scenario arises? Mostly we brush off the issue as being insignificant until things get out of hand. We can continue to boast of our society for its cultural diversity and maybe even a cosmopolitan mindset, but the fact remains that some of our age-old beliefs have not changed much. If someone openly talks about having approached a psychiatrist or even a psychologist, he or she is more likely to be socially ostracized than find sympathizers.
The issue of mental health is one such where it is not sufficient to be open about it- a long way goes in understanding the agony of those who are clinically diagnosed with mental illness. Somewhere between understanding and talking about it, there is another curious angle developing – of romanticizing mental health issues.
Let’s get this straight, while terms like ‘depressed’ and ‘anxious’ have now entered our everyday parlance, there is an abysmal difference between feeling low and being clinically depressed or anxious. Some psychologists have pointed out to this phenomenon where young people who are ‘wannabe depressed’ vent out their feelings in a bid to sound cool.
Dr Stan Kutcher, a practicing psychiatrist opines that the solution lies in recreating the distinction between normal emotional states and the clinical condition of depression which has to be largely achieved through awareness with the help of professionals that work with young people. Unfortunately, there are very few professionals with the right skill set to help out those who are in distress. That’s another issue to be addressed altogether.
Let’s do our bid to take an open-minded approach towards mental health while not falling prey to the temptation to fake being mentally distressed. Mental illness is neither cool nor a curse.